The venue changed, but the tune did not.
In Singapore in May, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of U.S. naval operations (CNO) boasted of the ability of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS-1) USS Freedom to create a big bang – in terms of presence – in the Asia-Pacific without infringing on the sovereignty of the countries there.
The “small-footprint” approach would be key to a successful rebalancing of U.S. forces to the region, he said at that time.
Speaking July 19 at a media briefing in the Pentagon, he said his recent visit to the region only ‘assured’ him that the mindset remains the right one.
“I look forward to eventually evolving to four of these down in Singapore, working with the government on our plan,” he says. “The numbers would be more, but the footprint is small from the perspective of, what do the nations need? What are the capabilities that they're looking for in an ally or a partner? And does that resonate with them? My experience, when over there, that was reassured.”
He provides more insight. “I wondered what the conversation would be like when the chief of the Indian navy and the Malaysian navy toured it and came over, two countries that we've had issues with getting port visits, because they say, ‘you guys bring in these big ships and it's difficult to resonate.’ They immediately said we need to bring this ship down and operate right away. The chief of the Australian navy said, ‘I want to have this thing down at the fleet review here in October. This is the kind of thing we need in Southeast Asia.”
Greenert acknowledges there are still some issues with the LCS, which is slated July 25 to be the subject of a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report and Congressional hearing.
But, regarding costs, he says, “I'm satisfied. They are delivering within cost now. WE have a block buy. We have a pretty good deal, a fixed cost, and they're performing.
As for schedule, he says, “We've had some hiccups, particularly in the -- in the (LCS-2 USS) Independence class, but those have been satisfactorily reconciled for our acquisition people.”
He also says of the ships, “They've performed well on trials. We are now going beyond trials, and we're out there in, you know, Southeast Asia, across the Pacific. I would say performance at delivery (is) good. And we've had a lot of ship classes come in and do well, performance on delivery. Then you've got to take it out and you shake it down, and you find there are issues. We're finding that.”
The Navy has had new-ship-program hiccups before.
“What we are finding is not that significantly different from the Perry class of the '60s and '70s, the Spruance class of the '70s, nor even the Arleigh Burke class when it comes to the size and the impact on it. But we need to be vigilant, and we need to follow up, and we have work to do.”
Greenert says the ships are as survivable as they need to be.
“We believe that they should be built to operate and, if damaged in combat, to survive and then to -- to withdraw, if you will. That's the design from the very beginning. They have been built and tested to that level. And so far, I'm satisfied with that. As we look around the world and our ability to understand the threat around the world, there aren't many vessels -- in fact, I don't know of any right now, perhaps a submarine operating by itself, where you can say -- you can go out there and be very much on your own in all threat environments.”